Over in the Meal Planning Made Simple Facebook group (it's free to join with fun new challenges each month to keep meal planning interesting!) this month we have been focusing on trying a new food or trying a new recipe each week.
With that challenge, however, it could become a little stressful if you have a picky eater in your house who likes to put up a fuss over new foods. I personally have a picky one, my almost 2 year old son, whose new favorite word is "Noooo!"
We haven't quite reached the ability to negotiate with him yet like we have with his older sister where the "if you want more of this you have to eat 2 more bites of meat" type of conversations can happen. With him so far we are trying to take the pressure off, give him some space to explore and learn, and just make food fun!
I don't see anything wrong with inviting some fun to the table. After all, family meal times should be seen as fun, quality time, right? It's really where we get to face one another, have conversations about our day, learn new things together, and connect!
Here are some ways to keep meal times fun with your littles. Take the pressure off, be a little goofy with them, and sooner or later they will take an adventurous first bite of a new food!
1. Invite a furry friend to the table
One of the best ways I've gotten my picky boy to begin eating during meals is by inviting his Moosey to the table with us. I am the stuffed moose who pretends to chow down on his food. He pretends to feed him bites and ends up eating those bites as we play along.
Of course there is an age where this begins to not work anymore, but toddlers love to feed their toy dolls or stuffed animals for quite a while (at least in my house!).
2. Play a little with your food
If it's not feeding a stuffed animal, maybe it's filling up a dump truck with grapes or baby carrots and dumping them out into a fruit or veggie dip. Give your littles fun utensils to use instead of a fork or spoon, like maybe a toy shovel or even a toothpick to eat with something different.
3. Make fruit and veggies fun!
I personally love these veggie and fruit cutters to make them more fun! This is a great idea to fill up their lunch boxes with various shapes. You could also add these food picks to give their food cute faces and eyes.
4. Buy pre-made healthy dips and sauces
Sauces and dips are great for littles to have fun with, but many times they're filled with bad oils, sugar or chemicals. Primal Kitchen is a great brand for sauces! They have ingredients you can feel good about giving to your littles.
5. Make eating a game or a challenge!
Ask your littles "Who can eat more of their meat?" or "Can you eat your soup to see the picture at the bottom of the bowl?" or "I bet you can't drink your water to the rubber band line". This is a great option to try if your child has a competitive nature, especially when they have a sibling they're trying to beat! They also make these fun game plates for kids now - I mean, how fun to have a spinner tell you what to eat next! ...I might have to get one for me.
Having fun with meal times makes parenting more fun. Taking the pressure off of trying new things for your littles can help them feel more comfortable but it also relieves some stress for you, too.
For more ideas and support with picky littles check out @kids.eat.in.color who is a registered dietitian and she loves to help parents feed their littles healthy foods; she has tons of ideas and tips!